Hyrum Smith

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Question: Hyrum Smith is mentioned in several sections of the D&C. What did Joseph say about his brother, Hyrum?

Answer: Hyrum Smith was born 9 February 1800 in Vermont, the third child of eleven children of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Joseph Jr. was their fifth child. For the most part, Hyrum and Joseph grew up the same as most farm boys during the early part of the 19th century.

Certainly there were many events that bonded Hyrum and Joseph together, but none stronger than one in 1812. When typhus fever swept the area, several members of the Smith family were stricken, including seven-year-old Joseph. “His leg soon began to swell and he continued to suffer the greatest agony for the space of two weeks,” his mother wrote. “Hyrum, who was rather remarkable for his tenderness and sympathy, now desired that he might take my place. As he was a good, trusty boy, we let him do so, and, in order to make the task as easy for him as possible, we laid Joseph upon a low bed and Hyrum sat beside him, almost day and night for some considerable length of time...”

In the fall of 1823, Hyrum’s responsibility toward his family intensified when Alvin, the eldest living child, died. As Alvin was dying, he said to 23-year-old Hyrum, the next to oldest, “I have done all I could to make our dear parents comfortable. I want you to finish the house and take care of them in their old age.” On 9 December 1834, Joseph Smith Sr. underscored Hyrum’s success in this role in his patriarchal blessing: “Thou hast toiled hard and labored much for the good of thy father’s family: thou hast been a stay many times to them, and by thy diligence they have often been sustained.”

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In the aftermath of Alvin’s death, Hyrum finished building the white frame house for his parents and continued to assist Joseph. In 1820 Hyrum had been among the first who believed and supported Joseph after the First Vision. When Joseph received the golden plates, it was Hyrum who provided the wooden box for their storage and protection. In 1829 Hyrum became one of the Eight Witnesses, who, after leafing through the plates and seeing the engravings thereon, testified of their reality. Once the plates were translated, the Prophet entrusted Hyrum with the printer’s copy of the manuscript. Throughout the publication process, it was Hyrum, usually accompanied by Oliver Cowdery, who delivered pages to the typesetter and retrieved them daily.

In the midst of these events, Hyrum courted Jerusha Barden. They married on 2 November 1826 in Manchester, New York. Although Hyrum had learned barrel making from his father, he supported his family as a farmer and laborer. He and Jerusha eventually became the parents of six children, two of whom died young.

When the Church was organized on 6 April 1830, Hyrum, at age 30, was the eldest of the six who signed the articles of incorporation. Soon after, Hyrum was sent to Colesville, New York, to preside over one of the first branches of the Church.

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In June 1833 when Joseph announced a temple should be built in Kirtland, Hyrum set the work in motion by taking his scythe and clearing weeds from the temple site. Two days later he and Reynolds Cahoon began digging the foundation. As a member of the committee to oversee the Kirtland Temple construction, Hyrum was involved at every stage of the building, dedication, and use of the first temple of this dispensation.

Then during May and June 1834, Hyrum suffered along side his brother Joseph on the march from Kirtland, Ohio to Clay County, Missouri in Zion’s Camp.

Joseph wrote of Hyrum, “I could pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of a lamb, and the integrity of a Job, and in short, the meekness and humility of Christ; and I love him with that love that is stronger than death...”

In September 1837 Joseph, Hyrum, and others headed for Far West, Missouri. Hyrum felt uneasy about leaving Jerusha, who was about to deliver their sixth baby. He arrived in Far West on 30 October 1837. A few days after his arrival, Hyrum received a letter from his brother Samuel in Kirtland, dated 13 October, nearly a month earlier: “Dear Brother [Hyrum], Jerusha … died this evening about half past seven o’clock. She was delivered of a daughter on the first or second of this month. She has been very low ever since.” Don Carlos added a postscript assuring Hyrum that he would care for the children until his return.

Hyrum was distraught. Jerusha had been his love, his helpmeet, his strength. With deep sadness, on 13 November, only two weeks after his arrival, Hyrum started home and arrived in Kirtland in early December. Joseph, who returned from Missouri a few days after Hyrum, felt a personal urgency for Hyrum. Joseph told Hyrum that it was the Lord’s will that Hyrum should marry Mary Fielding, the English convert from Canada. Thus, just three weeks after his return from Missouri, Hyrum married Mary on 24 December 1837. Later Hyrum said of this event, “It was not because I had less love or regard for Jerusha, that I married so soon, but it was for the sake of my children.” In due time, two children were born to Hyrum and Mary: Joseph F. (13 November 1838) and Martha Ann (14 May 1841).

In early March 1838, Hyrum and Mary, who had spent only a few weeks together as husband and wife, left Kirtland. Of the five living children, only Lovina, then 10, was old enough to help her new stepmother. John was 5, Hyrum was 3, Jerusha 2, and Sarah only a few months old. After “many privations and much fatigue,” they reached Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, in late May. On 1 November 1838 a company of militia came for Hyrum. Mary was ill and only days away from delivering her first child. Hyrum told them the situation, but they said they did not care. Within a month of Hyrum’s arrest, Joseph F. Smith was born.

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On December 1, 1838, Joseph and Hyrum, and four other men, were put in Liberty Jail without possibility of bail. Hyrum summed up the jail experience afterward by saying he had “endured almost everything but death, from the nauseous cell, and the wretched food.” Their four months of misery was mitigated by occasional visits of friends and bits of food. Hyrum was able to see his new baby and Mary only once while he was in prison.

On 19 January 1841 Hyrum became Patriarch to the Church in the place of his father, who had passed away four months earlier. Following Oliver Cowdery’s departure from the Church in 1838, Hyrum was appointed Assistant President of the Church.

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Joseph and Hyrum died at the hands of an angry mob on the afternoon of 27 June 1844 in the Carthage Jail. Truly, “in life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!”

Of Hyrum, Joseph had written in 1842: “Brother Hyrum, what a faithful heart you have got. Oh, may the eternal Jehovah crown eternal blessings upon your head, as a reward for the care you have had for my soul. Oh, how many are the sorrows we have shared together. … Hyrum, thy name shall be written in the Book of the Law of the Lord, for those who come after thee to look upon, that they may pattern after thy works.”

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Thousands of faithful Latter-day Saint men and women trace their lineage through the four children of Hyrum and Jerusha who grew to adulthood and through the two children of Hyrum and Mary. Among these descendants are two Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum and Mary; and Joseph Fielding Smith, a grandson.

Hyrum is buried by his brother Joseph in the Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Source: Ensign, February 2000, Hyrum Smith By Ronald K. Esplin; Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black.